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Soviet modernist buildings in Armenia

Armenia, a country with a rich history and diverse cultural heritage, boasts an intriguing blend of architectural styles. Among these, the Soviet modernist buildings stand out as bold expressions of a unique period in the nation's architectural and political history. Constructed primarily during the second half of 20th century, these structures reflect the ideals and aesthetics of Soviet modernism, which sought to combine functionality with innovative design.

The Rise of Soviet Modernism in Armenia


Soviet modernism emerged as a dominant architectural style across the Soviet Union from the 1950s to the 1980s. It sought to depart from the heavy, colonnaded, ornate, and elaborate styles of the past, embracing simplicity, geometric forms, and innovative construction technologies. These buildings, appearing to hang in the air, defied gravity and created an impression of precariousness, as if they might collapse at any moment.


Key Characteristics


Soviet modernist buildings in Armenia are characterized by their clean lines, minimalist aesthetics, and innovative use of materials like concrete, steel and glass. These structures often feature:

  • Geometric Shapes: Buildings are designed with bold, geometric forms that create a striking visual impact.

  • Functional Design: Emphasis is placed on practicality and functionality, with spaces designed to serve specific purposes efficiently.

  • Use of Concrete: Concrete is a predominant material, allowing for large-scale constructions and intricate designs.

  • Use of glass: Large windows, often round in shape, began to be used extensively, leading some detractors to derisively refer to them as "aquariums."




Sevan Writers’ House

 



Located on the Sevan Peninsula by Lake Sevan, the Sevan Writers' House is a notable example of Soviet-era modernist architecture that continues to captivate tourists from around the world. Constructed from concrete, it comprises two separate structures: the Residence Hall and the Lounge Building, both built at different times during the Soviet period.

The Residence Hall, designed by Gevorg Kochar and Mikayel Mazmanyan, was initially conceptualized in 1932 and completed in 1935. In 1963, Kochar was tasked with reconstructing and extending the resort. He added an additional floor and a wide terrace to the Residence Hall, enhancing the original design.

During the reconstruction, Kochar also designed the new Lounge Building. Though stylistically different from the Residence Hall, the two buildings form a harmonious ensemble with the natural landscape and the medieval Sevan Monastery churches on the peninsula. Together, they represent an iconic example of post-Stalin modernist Soviet architecture.

 

Yeritasardakan Metro Station



Yeritasardakan ("Youth") Metro Station opened its doors on March 7, 1981. Strategically located with an exit on Isahakyan Street, the station provides convenient access to Teryan and Abovyan Streets, several of Yerevan's higher education institutions, and the Circular Park. The architect is Stepan Kyurkchyan, the designer is I. Manucharyan.

The station's above-ground structure is renowned for its unique design. A wide, glass-covered tube extends from the building at an angle, resembling an object emerging from the ground especially when viewed from behind. This architectural feature allows passengers ascending the escalator to see sunlight and sky, enhancing the travel experience. Yeritasardakan Metro Station's distinctive design is unparalleled in Armenia.

 

Yerevan Polytechnic Institute (now National Polytechnic University of Armenia)



The National Polytechnic University of Armenia, designed by Armen Aghalyan and built in 1975, exemplifies notable elements of modernized traditional motifs. The building features a striking white façade characterized by a repetitive pattern of circular and floral motifs set within a grid-like structure, constructed from prefabricated modules. Prominently featured circular windows enhance the building's unique appearance. The lower and upper portions of the structure are constructed of tuff stone, with a significant bas-relief decorating the entrance, adding to the building's architectural and cultural significance.



'VDNKh' Complex, the Pavilion of Industry, Yerevan



The pavilion at the VDNKh (Exhibition of Achievements of National Economy) in Yerevan, designed by Jim Torosyan, Levon Gevorgyan, and R. Manukyan in 1960. The building features a large, curved roof that resembles a dome, creating a spacious and open interior. The front of the pavilion is characterized by extensive glass walls, allowing natural light to flood the space and providing a clear view of the interior from the outside. This architectural style is emblematic of the modernist movement of the mid-20th century, emphasizing functionality, openness, and the use of innovative materials and construction techniques. The pavilion is set in a landscaped area, adding to its aesthetic appeal and integrating it with the surrounding environment.

 

“Zvartnots” Airport



"Zvartnots Airport, particularly Terminal 1, also known today as the Old Terminal, stands as a prestigious asset of the Soviet era with its futuristic appearance reminiscent of a monolithic space-city from science fiction.

 

In 1970, an open competition for architectural projects was held, awarding first prize to a group of architects including Artur Tarkhanyan, Spartak Khachikyan, Zhorzh Shkhiyan, Sergey Baghdasaryan, and Levon Cherkezyan. The project was later modified with the participation of architects A. Tigranyan and A. Meschyan.

 

The airport was built in a remarkably short period and opened with great ceremony on February 10, 1982. Recognized for its architectural ingenuity, the airport's creative team received the ASSR State Prize in 1985.

 

Its establishment marked a significant milestone for Armenia, providing a robust transportation hub that connected the republic with the global community through internationally compliant runways. At the time, only Moscow and Kiev in the Soviet Union boasted runways comparable to Zvartnots Airport.

 

The building is circular in design, resembling a truncated cone with a 200-meter diameter base. At its center, a restaurant building rises in the form of a mushroom-shaped tower. Surrounding the structure are seven mini-carriers capable of handling 300 passengers per hour, along with 14 aircraft stands suitable for TU-154 aircraft or 7 stands for Airbus IL-82 aircraft.

 

In 2004, construction began on a new terminal, a $100 million endeavor spanning 19,200 m² with a capacity to accommodate 2 million passengers annually. This modern facility, managed under a new airport administration contract, saw the opening of an arrivals hall on September 14, 2006, and an international departures hall on June 1, 2007. Terminal 1 ceased operations in 2011.

 

Tigran Petrosian Chess House




The Chess House stands as a prominent sports facility in the capital, designed by architects Zhanna Meshcheryakova and R. Manukyan, with artistic contributions from H. Bdeyan and D. Babayan in 1970. Its cornerstone was laid by Tigran Petrosyan. Noteworthy for its distinctive triangular shape reminiscent of a chess Rook, the building features a facade adorned with seven stylized chess pieces crafted from tempered copper.

 

Rossia Cinema



Rossia Cinema, commissioned in Yerevan in 1974, stands out as a prominent example of Soviet-era modernist architecture in the city. Architects Artur Tarkhanyan, Spartak Khachikyan, and Hrachya Poghosyan received the Council of Ministers of the USSR prize for their design in 1979.

The suspended ceiling of the "Rossia" cinema, called "вантовое перекрытие (cable-stayed ceiling)” was the first of its kind in Armenia. The cinema's roof, facing Tigran Mets Street, spans 40 meters wide and 60 meters long, hanging without any support.

The multifunctional complex featured two halls of equal shape but differing sizes—1,600 and 1,000 seats—above an open area housing exhibition halls, a cafe, a bar, and ticket offices. This design facilitated seamless interaction between the street and interior, showcasing the building's innovative architectural solutions.

The cinema underwent privatization in 2004, and by 2006, part of the structure was repurposed into the trade and cultural center "Rossia," now primarily operating as a commercial venue.

 

Karen Demirchyan Sports and Concerts Complex




The complex was opened in 1983 but was forced to close within a year and a half after a fire in 1985, A renovation process took place until the end of 1987 when it was ready again to host concerts and sports events.  this multi-purpose complex is one of the most ambitious Soviet-era constructions in Armenia. Its futuristic design features sweeping curves, expansive spaces, and innovative engineering.

The complex was designed by a group of Armenian architects: A. Tarkhanian, S. Khachikyan, G. Pogosyan, and G. Mushegyan. The construction process was supervised by engineers Hamlet Badalyan (chief engineer), I. Tsaturian, A. Azizian, and M. Aharonian.

Komitas Chamber Music House



Komitas Chamber Music House, designed by artist Stepan Kyurkchyan and constructed under the supervision of engineer Eduard Khzmalyan, opened its doors in October 1977. The facility features a 300-seat music hall renowned for hosting concerts, festivals, anniversaries, meetings, exhibitions, and presentations.

 

Vanadzor Bus Station



Vanadzor Bus Station is a prominent example of Soviet-era modernist architecture in Armenia, designed by architect Konstantin Ter-Ohanjanyan. The structure is notable for its distinctively angular, zigzagged roofline, which gives it a dynamic and industrial appearance. The facade features large glass windows that provide a sense of openness and light. The middle part of the building includes signage in Armenian and Russian script: "ԱՎՏՈԿԱՅԱՆ" and "АВТОВОКЗАЛ," which translate to "Bus Station." Today, various commercial advertisements spoil the look of this once striking view. The use of concrete and glass, along with the sharp, geometric design, reflects the utilitarian yet bold architectural style typical of Soviet modernist constructions. The station's design is both functional and visually striking, serving as an important transportation hub in Vanadzor.

 

The Institute of Communication



The Institute of Communication is a 10-story building designed in 1971 by architects Armen Aghalyan and Grigori Grigoryan. The building was put into operation seven years after the start of construction. It met the highest seismic standards, boasting an 8-point earthquake resistance rating.

 

Today, many Soviet modernist buildings in Armenia face challenges related to preservation and adaptation. As the country continues to develop, there is a growing recognition of the need to preserve these architectural gems. Efforts are underway to restore and repurpose some of these buildings, ensuring that they remain functional and relevant in the contemporary urban landscape.

The preservation of Soviet modernist architecture is crucial not only for maintaining Armenia's architectural heritage but also for understanding the social and historical contexts in which these buildings were constructed. By valuing and conserving these structures, Armenia can retain a tangible link to its recent past, while also providing inspiration for future architectural endeavors.

 

 

 

 

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